I write this while we are still in Barcelona because while I feel I was well prepared by TripAdvisor's contributors about the pickpocketers in Barcelona, I am truly appalled about how rampant it is and how it seems they target just the tourists. My husband and I travel extensively in the US and Europe. I grew up in NY, commuting and working in New York City as a young woman so am very "aware" and streetsmart. While we do take precautions, (I carry valuables on my body and don't carry a purse...my husband carries his wallet in his front pocket and keeps his hand on it) we have never had problems. Until Barcelona. We arrived on Wed with the family. Thursday I caught a pickpocketer sliding her hand into my son-in-law's camera case at the Magic Fountain. I yelled and chased her and her partner away. Friday my husband caught a pickpocketer reaching for his wallet while we were exiting the Metro during the day. My husband made a scene and they left. But last night, Saturday, was the worst. My husband and college son went "partying" on the Ramblas. Since they didn't have watches and there are hardly any clocks visible in Barcelona, my husband didn't realize it was 3 am. He got close to a dark alley and was robbed of his cash at knifepoint. He still had his wallet and began to walk back to the apartment we rented because he now didn't have cash for a taxi. On his walk home, 3 pickpocketers started harassing him. Two would slap at him while the third kept trying to grab his wallet while he was protecting himself. Finally my husband was able to punch one of them and they left. And this is at the Ramblas on a Saturday night with tons of people still out at that hour and no one helped him.
Barcelona is such a beautiful city with so many wonderful things to do but the crime against tourists is way too high for us to return. Our flight doesn't leave till Tue but we just want to get out of here now. Why I say they target tourists is that you watch all these local people, girls have purses that are wide open, guys have these "purses" that strap across their bodies but the "purse" part is on their backs. If anyone is an easy pick it would be these local people but they don't get bothered.
I knew to be "aware" when I came to Barcelona, didn't know I had to be on guard.